Spice Focus: Saffron
Saffron has been said to be the most expensive spice in the world.The spice is obtained from the stamens of the saffron crocus. The flowers are hand picked and the stamens are hand plucked, one at a time. The stamens are fine, red yellow threads. Much of the best saffron is grown in the plains of La Mancha, Spain, but is also cultivated in France, Sicily, Iran & India.
Saffron threads (also called stigmas)are known to have medicinal and aphrodisiac properties, as well as a delicious flavor.
It is believed to aid the digestion and improve the appetite. It is often used to treat menstrual pain and irregularity, menopause, impotence, infertility, anemia, enlarged liver, hysteria, depression, insomnia, neuralgia, lumbago, rheumatism, cough, asthma, gastro-intestinal complaints, colic, and chronic diarrhea.
Saffron can be used as a spice (the whole thread), in oils, infusions, and in food as a flavoring. The oil can be used for massage, perfume or bath.
To make a saffron infusion, steep 6-10 stigmas in 1/2 cup of boiling water. Usual dose is 1 cup per day (unsweetened).
CONTRAINDICATIONS: DO NOT USE DURING PREGNANCY, AS IT CAN PROMOTE MISCARRIAGE.
SAFFRON CAN BE NARCOTIC IN LARGE DOSES. DO NOT EXCEED MEDICINAL AMOUNT INDICATED. A DOSE OF 1/2 OZ. CAN BE FATAL.
Sources & Credits:
Sophie Grigson’s Ingredient Book
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Natural Remedies, by C. Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D.
Wikipedia Commons (picture of saffron crocus)